On diminishing well-being and compensating ill-being

Many pronatalists consider the suffering in the world as amounts of ill-being that can be compensated for by certain amounts of well-being.

While it will be difficult to defend this view it looks like any well-being can easily be diminshed or even nullified.

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On compensation

Antinatalist
There’ll be no suffering if you stop procreating.

Pronatalist
I readily admit there’s a lot of suffering out there. But then the suffering, pain and fear that people do experience is compensated for by the good things in life they do also experience.

Antinatalist
Well, obviously it’s people like you – the defenders of procreation – who find themselves forced to resort to the logics of compensation. It’s you who have to defend your position since you want to change the ethical state of the world by adding more sentient beings. The supreme position is the antinatalists’ position as they don’t want to add sentient beings to the world whose ill-being or well-being we’d have to discuss. This suggests a certain weakness of the pronatalists’ stance.

Emblems of Ethics

Zygotes and early embryos appear to be the emblems of contemporary ethics. As non-sentient and  normally invisible entities they have become telling symbols. While normally invisible zygotes and early embryos are made visible everywhere, normally visible old and sick people are made invisible. But it is them who would deserve to be in the focus of contemporary ethics as they are sentient and, in many cases, suffering.

Newborns are another Emblem of Ethics. In a telling manner Hans Jonas declares the newborn to be the most pitiful being being. According to him newborns do exude a direct ethical appeal which allegedly bridges the hiatus between what there is and what we are to do. Tellingly the same thinker is of the opinion that old people should clear the way for new arrivals.

Systematic and symbolic negligance of the end of life suggests a dimension of unethics within the realm of ethics. At the same time this unjustified negligence serves as a clandestine pronatal device.

 

When pronatalists turn antinatalist

When pronatalists turn antinatalist

Think of couple A+B. Their outset on life is overall pronatalist. They haven’t procreated yet but plan to have their first child in the foreseeable future. Within five years they plan to have two children.

Now horrible news is coming in: Because of a recently released polluting agent all children produced from today on will suffer unspeakably directly after birth.

Scenario 1

The newborn will suffer incessantly and die a few months after birth.

Scenario 2

The newborn will suffer intermittently and die a few months after birth.

Scenario 3

The newborn will suffer intermittently and die within six decades after birth because of that polluting agent.

 

Chances are high that couple A+B will refrain from procreation under scenario 1. And probably the vast majority of all pronatal couples would refrain from procreation even under scenario 2.

How about scenario 3? We have good reason to assume that in the face of this scenario many pronatalist people will refrain from procreation on the ground that they do not want to expose their own children to that pollutant agent which with all certainty would cause their deaths. However, six decades is almost a „normal“ life span.

The morals behind these scenarios is as follows:

Pronatalist people seem to be inclined to refrain from procreation if it is the case that they would expose their children to horrible things. Now, virtually all parents are people who have exposed their children to horrible things such as dying and the deaths of the near and the dear. This morals is prone to make pronatalists see that procreation is wrong.

 

Losing one’s life and winning one’s life

At any given moment most people don’t want to die. While many people fear the process of dying most people do probably fear to lose THEIR lives .

It looks like the fear of LOSING one’s life doesn’t make too much sense. This is so, because I or you will not continue to exist as a person who has lost her life.

In pretty much the same manner – and according to the same illogic – in which many people don’t want to lose THEIR lives most people do welcome that THEY once ‘won’ their lives. A common expression for this is: People are glad that THEY were given the ‘gift’ of life. However, when I began to exist there was no ME who gained the additional feature of life. For this very reason it doesn’t make sense when people try to refute antinatalism on the ground that THEY  and others would have missed out ont he feature of life had their parents not procreated.

Defence systems

Whenever the term ANTINATALISM is mentioned or explained at least one of the following three defence systems will be activated:

A personal defence system: MY PERSONAL EXISTENCE/CHOICE IS BEING QUESTIONED / UNDER THREAT.

A familial defence system: THE EXISTENCE OF MY CHILDREN IS BEING QUESTIONED / UNDER THREAT

A societal defence system: OUR SOCIETY’S EXISTENCE/FUTURE IS BEING QUESTIONED / UNDER THREAT

The personal defence system is due to a kind of DEPRIVATIONAL FALLACY: “The antinatalist is questioning my very existence: Had my parents followed the antinatalist’s ethical advice I would still be NOTHING which is somehow equivalent to murder.”

Wherever I explained the antinatalist moral theory pointing to less suffering in the world as compared with pronatal actions, people (even otherwise humane people) were prepared to accept any amount of suffering if only mankind will persist. Only recently did I speak to members of a humanistic league who were prepared to accept a second Auschwitz if only mankind were allowed to continue.

While it looks like there is an updraught for antinatalism at least in English-speaking countries (we don’t know much about such contries China, India…) this moral theory has a problematic special status in Germany. I elaborated on this German thing in a blog post By the way, probably it was Théophile de Giraud who first used the term ANTINATALISM for the moral theory favoured by us.

In the face of these reactions the future of antinatalism may look rather bleak. But there is reason for optimism within this frame: As a consequence of the ever more visible antinatalist world league of which we form part, there will be an increasing number of individuals ready to confess their hitherto clandestine antinatalism – it’s a chain reaction.

 

They were good Buddhists…

One would expect Buddhists to be more outspoken antinatalists than Hindus. While many Hindu sects do believe in a persisting soul which may achieve higher incarnations with every rebirth, there doesn’t appear to be such a thing as a persisting soul in Buddhism. Against this background Aldous Huxley’s elaboration on Buddhist antinatalim seems reasonable at first sight:

“They were good Buddhists, and every good Buddhist knows that begetting is merely postponed assassination. Do your best to get off the Wheel of Birth and Death, and for heaven’s sake don’t go about putting superfluous victims on the Wheel. For a good Buddhist, birth control makes metaphysical sense.” (Aldous Huxley, Island)

On closer examination, however, we find that many a Buddhist will not defend antinatalism. Why? Mahayana Buddhism might develop the following subterfuge: Mankind has to continue to help with other beings that otherwise would be lost in samsara. But what about simpler forms of Buddhism, why aren’t they more outspoken on antinatalism?

Strange though it may seem…

…but you may bring in any number of animals to be slaughtered: It’ll be all right for the vast majority of people. One million, one hundred million or a billion animals. It’s all right. As long as the corpses of all those animals will be eaten up by humans it’s no problem.

Now reveal yourself as an antinatalist suggesting it would be ethical to sterilise a billion sentient animals in order to reduce suffering. People will be flabbergasted calling you immoral.

In a similar manner people are prepared to sacrifice own children to life’s imponderabilities and to lingering illness at the end of their lifes, while they are not prepared to consider abstention from procreation.

When slaughtering is all right, sterilising animals remains taboo

The other day I offered a short introduction into Karlheinz Deschner’s antinatalism when I was accosted by somebody who said:

‘For the sake of stringency you’d have to endorse mass sterilisation of animals, too, since they are pain causing agents.’

Explaining the point of view of an all-encompassing antinatalism I said that he was definitely right. Some of the people who were disgusted to hear this were just having dinner for the preparation of which body parts of massacred animals had been used.

Antinatalism after The Plague?

In his short story AFTER THE PLAGUE T.C. Boyle deals with the literary topic of ‘The last of the race’. As a rule stories on the last of the race will end with a man and a woman meeting thus making sure mankind will continue. Boyle’s plot is rather spicy since his couple among the last of the race won’t match at all. Nonetheless he’s uttering:

‘…and I think you know what I’m talking about… Procreation I mean. If you look at it in a certain way, it’s – well, it’s our duty.”

Will she, who doesn’t like him – and vice versa – give in on behalf of the duty? Not at all:

‘I had my tubes tied fifteen years ago.’

Soon afterwards the male hero is to meet another woman with Boyle keeping us in the dark on the future of humankind.